Fifty Somerset skeletons may be Britons enslaved by the Roman Empire

Remains of 50 skeletons found under a school in Somerset ‘belong to ancient British SLAVES captured by the Romans and forced to build an elite villa 2,000 years ago’, archaeologist claims

  • A total of 50 skeletons were found in the 50 graves at the Somerset site  
  • Construction workers were excavating the site of a new 420-pupil school 
  • Some of the graves had nails at the feet indicating thy were buried in boots  
  • Various valuables were also buried alongside the remains of adults and children

Fifty skeletons dating back more than 2,000 years uncovered in Somerset may belong to native Britons enslaved by the invading Roman Empire. 

Initial reports claimed the bodies were high-ranking members of society, but it is now believed they were the unpaid labourers working for the rich and powerful. 

Each grave contained a single body, with both adults and children buried at the site, and many were buried wearing hobnail boots, researchers believe. 

The remains were discovered by construction workers building a school.

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Fifty skeletons (pictured) dating back more than 2,000 years uncovered in Somerset may belong to native Britons enslaved by the invading Roman Empire. Initial reports claim the bodies were high-ranking members of society but this is now disputed 

 An exact date of the skeletons is unknown as they studies are still ongoing but early estimates date the remains as potentially as old as 43AD – the date of the Roman invasion of Britain

The new school will be built on the site of the old King Ina Junior and Infants’. 

‘This site is a significant discovery – the most comprehensive modern excavation of a Roman cemetery in Somerset,’ said archaeologist Steve Membery from South West Heritage Trust, which has overseen the excavations.

‘The application of technology including aerial drones and techniques such as isotope and ancient DNA analysis offers major opportunities for insights into the lives of the Roman population of Somerton.

‘The individuals were evidently of some status in native society.

‘The burials also show early adoption of Roman burial practices such as offerings alongside traditionally Iron Age characteristics.’

In a separate statement provided to LiveScience, he revealed the high-ranking native people may have been taken into slavery by the Romans.

‘They are most likely household servants, agricultural workers, and many may have technically been slaves,’ Mr Membery said.  

‘So, this is a rare opportunity to study a sample of a community.’  

The burials included both adults and children with a smattering of valuables in the graves, including pottery and brooches.

The form of the burials was unusual and sheds lights on the transition between Iron Age and Roman society.

An exact date of the skeletons is unknown as the studies are ongoing but early estimates date the remains as potentially as old as 43AD. 

The graves were dug into the bedrock and lined with stone curbs to create a coffin-like structure and sealed with flat slabs. 

The excavations also unveiled other Roman relics besides the bodies, including traces of Iron Age round houses, field systems and a Roman building.

Work on the new 420-pupil school had to be delayed while experts from Wessex Archaeology dug the site – and unearthed the discoveries.

Construction is set to resume following a short archaeological hiatus this month. 

Somerset County Councillor Faye Purbrick, Cabinet Member for Education and Transformation, said: ‘The findings are both exciting and extraordinary providing us with valuable insight into Somerset’s early history.

‘We will be able to understand so much more about the lives of Roman people in Somerton thanks to these discoveries.

The site archaeology has been carefully gathered for further scientific analysis and full findings on both the skeletons and the artefacts in the graves will be published in due course, the archaeologists say 

Work on the new 420-pupil school had to be delayed while experts from Wessex Archaeology dug the site – and unearthed the discoveries

‘Our team have a great track record of delivering fantastic new schools and while we’d always prefer any delay to be avoided I think that the students, parents and teachers will understand in this instance, given the scale and importance of the archaeological finds here.

‘The children have already had an opportunity to visit the site hopefully inspiring some future archaeologists and I’m sure they will be excited to continue to learn more about this very special site.’

The site archaeology has been carefully gathered for further scientific analysis.

A full report of the findings will be published in due course, according to the people who dug up the site. 

The graves were dug into the bedrock and lined with stone curbs to create a coffin-like structure and sealed with flat slabs and many contained other items, including pottery (pictured) 

WHEN DID THE ROMANS OCCUPY BRITAIN?

55BC – Julius Caesar crossed the channel with around 10,000 soldiers. They landed at a Pegwell Bay on the Isle of Thanet and were met by a force of Britons. Caesar was forced to withdraw.

54BC – Caesar crossed the channel again in his second attempt to conquer Britain. He came with with 27,000 infantry and cavalry and landed at Deal but were unopposed. They marched inland and after hard battles they defeated the Britons and key tribal leaders surrendered.

However, later that year, Caesar was forced to return to Gaul to deal with problems there and the Romans left.

54BC – 43BC – Although there were no Romans present in Britain during these years, their influence increased due to trade links.

43AD – A Roman force of 40,000 led by Aulus Plautius landed in Kent and took the south east. The emperor Claudius arrived in Colchester with reinforcements. Claudius appointed Plautius as Governor of Britain and returned to Rome.

In 43AD, a Roman force (artist’s impression) of 40,000 led by Aulus Plautius landed in Kent and took the south east. The emperor Claudius then arrived in Colchester with reinforcements

47AD – Londinium (London) was founded and Britain was declared part of the Roman empire. Networks of roads were built across the country.

50AD – Romans arrived in the southwest and made their mark in the form of a wooden fort on a hill near the river Exe.  A town was created at the site of the fort decades later and names Isca. 

When Romans let and Saxons ruled, all ex-Roman towns were called a ‘ceaster’. this was called ‘Exe ceaster’ and a merger of this eventually gave rise to Exeter.   

75 – 77AD – Romans defeated the last resistant tribes, making all Britain Roman. Many Britons started adopting Roman customs and law.

122AD – Emperor Hadrian ordered that a wall be built between England and Scotland to keep Scottish tribes out.

312AD – Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal throughout the Roman empire.

228AD – The Romans were being attacked by barbarian tribes and soldiers stationed in the country started to be recalled to Rome.

410AD – All Romans were recalled to Rome and Emperor Honorious told Britons they no longer had a connection to Rome.

Source: History on the net

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